The Sixth Sunday in Lent
March 25, 2018
Pastor Frederick Casmer
"HOSANNA TO OUR REDEEME KING!"
Poet Charles Ross Weede has captured the difference between Christ
and earthly kings by comparing Jesus to Alexander the Great (d. 333 BC):
Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three;
One lived and died for self; one died for you and me.
The Greek died on a throne; the Jew died on a cross; One’s life a triumph seemed; the other but a loss. One led vast armies forth, the other walked alone; One shed the whole world’s blood; the other gave His own. One won the world in life and lost it all in death;
The other lost His life to win the whole world’s faith.
Unlike the kingdoms of this world, Jesus’ kingdom comes from heaven and leads people there. His kingdom isn’t visible, but invisible, not physical but spiritual, not temporary but eternal. It is not marked by pride and pomp, but by meekness and humility. Jesus doesn’t rule by force but by love. We become members of His kingdom not by physical birth but by spiritual rebirth.
But nowhere is the difference between Christ and earthly kings more apparent than in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. If we listen closely to the people’s words of praise, we discover how He enters is due to who He is. “HOSANNA TO OUR REDEEMER KING!” 1. His actions proclaim Him King while 2. His followers acclaim Him King.
Jesus shows He is true God here in several ways. First, He gives orders to His disciples which He expects them to obey: “Go to the village ahead of you… find a colt tied there… untie it and bring it here” (vv 1-2).
Second, He gives the two disciples an exact description of what they will find there -- a clear demonstration of His divine omniscience! And if Jesus knows what His disciples will encounter in Bethphage, then doesn’t He know what lies ahead of Him in Jerusalem -- His suffering, death and resurrection?
Third, this act is a royal requisition. If the president of the U.S. asks to borrow your car, will you let him? “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back shortly” (v3). This is the first time in Mark that Jesus calls Himself “Lord,” i.e. God. In the OT God ordered that animals used for His purposes not have been used previously for any other purpose (Nu 19:2; Dt 21:3). How fitting that when God’s King came riding into Jerusalem, He comes on an unbroken beast!
Fourth, Jesus knew this fulfilled the OT Scriptures. “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you; righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9-10).His disciples and the crowd should have seen Zechariah’s prophecy fulfilled. His entry into Jerusalem on a donkey demonstrated that He was not a King who would wipe out all disease and create a kingdom where bread was free. Many wanted that. Many still do. But our real problem would remain.
Paul reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). Our real problem isn’t financial, educational, political, medical or environmental. Our real problem is inside us and all around us.
It is spiritual. People are dying in their sins. People are condemned to spend eternity in misery with Satan. Jesus knew that you don’t fight Satan with earthly weapons. So Jesus came as the right kind of King (obedient to God), with the right kind of weapons (His holy Word) to establish the right kind of kingdom (spiritual, heavenly). “HOSANNA TO OUR REDEEMER KING!” 1. His actions proclaim Him King. Because He won the victory, He rightly deserves our obedience and praise. 2. His followers acclaim Him King.
Jesus’ follower acclaimed Him King with their actions. The two disciples obeyed their Lord’s command to fetch the colt. When they simply took Jesus at His word, they found things just as He said they would be! The other followers acclaimed Christ as King in this way: “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the field” (v8). They placed them in His path so His donkey would not have to touch the dust of the road. Since most were poor people, this was truly a sign of how much they loved the Lord and wished to honor Him.
Christ’s followers acclaimed Him King with their words. They sang words from Psalm 118: “Hosanna! (O Lord, save us!) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (vv 25-26). This is one of most important Messianic psalms quoted in the NT. In it Christ urges God’s people to give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love. For He says He did not base His hope of being rescued on the size or strength of His army or human allies. Rather He won the victory “in the name of the Lord,” that is, by relying on the Lord’s help. Now, as He comes to the temple to praise God for giving Him the promised victory, the people hail Him as He “who comes in the name of the Lord.” By singing these words as Jesus rode into the city, the people recognize Jesus as the Messiah prophesied in Psalm 118.
Consequently, the people saw in Jesus David’s long-waited Successor: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David” (v10a). The LORD had said of one of David’s successors: “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sa 7:13b). David’s kingdom had crumbled long before this. But God’s faithful people patiently awaited that day He would raise up a worthy successor to David. The angel Gabriel told Mary her Son was He: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Lk 1:32b-33). That new kingdom dawned in the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday -- even if many in the crowd did not fully understand the nature of His kingdom or the nature of their King. They expected their song of praise to be echoed by angels in heaven: “Hosanna in the highest!” (v10).
Still today Jesus’ followers acclaim Him King with their words and actions. A little boy was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. His father returned holding a palm branch. His son asked, “Why do you have a palm branch, Dad?” “You see, when Jesus entered Jerusalem, many waved palm branches to honor Him, so we got palm branches today.” His son replied, “Oh, sure. The one Sunday I miss church is the Sunday that Jesus shows up!”
While Jesus is no longer visibly present on earth, yet He has promised: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Mt 18:20). He still comes to us in a humble way, not with sword but with the Word. We can easily despise His invitations to make and keep us His subjects through His Word and Sacraments. Through those saving words and actions Jesus proclaims Himself our King. Or do we reply to His commands with: “I’m too busy. Maybe later?” Let’s not welcome our Savior with open arms on Sunday and forget about Him the rest of the week. Let’s not desert Him in a post-Easter spiritual depression like so many of the palm-waving fickle followers did later on Good Friday.
To a world which has witnessed the rise and fall of many kings, this one is clearly a cut above. In human humility but with divine authority, He “comes in the name of the Lord” and nothing more. He isn’t interested in increasing His power but in saving our souls. In this way He wins our hearts and inspires our undying devotion. We gladly give Him whatever He needs. We offer our praises fit for God’s King now and forever. AMEN.